Dr. Fred Bortz

Review of Inside the Hurricane: Face to Face With Nature's Deadliest Storms

by Pete Davies

(Henry Holt and Owl Paperback, 272 pages, paperback cover price $14.00, 2000)


Reviewed by Dr. Fred Bortz

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By going literally Inside the Hurricane, author Pete Davies (Storm Country and many others) carries journalistic thoroughness to extremes. Not content merely to study the inner workings of hurricanes through articles, textbooks, and interviews, Davies arranged to participate in cutting-edge research himself with the scientists at the National Hurricane Center and other research facilities in Florida, even flying with them into, through, and around the powerful storms.

Through Davies' eyes and ears, readers will understand the basic meteorology of these storms, the instruments used to study them, and the computers that simulate and predict their behavior. Yet this is more a human story than a scientific one. Davies introduces individual members of meteorological research teams, whose work blends fascination with powerful natural phenomena, scientific curiosity, thrill-seeking, and determination to provide life-saving early warning when killer storms, such as 1992's Andrew, approach.

In detail so relentless that many readers will find it overwhelming, Davies shares the 1998 and 1999 hurricane seasons: the compact yet powerful Bret; the monstrous Floyd that dropped rivers from the North Carolina sky, killing far more people by inland flooding than by winds; and the devastating Mitch that set impoverished but developing Honduras back two decades.

In his final chapters, he presents the meteorological argument that the world's oceans are entering two decades of more numerous and powerful tropical cyclones, part of a normal climatic cycle. He ends with the forecast for 2000 -- bad, but probably less severe than 1999 -- and a persuasive argument for increased funding for hurricane research.

Fred Bortz is the author of numerous children's science books, including Dr. Fred's Weather Watch.